How to Build a Progressive Education Movement
You've got to hand it to Michelle Rhee: She succeeded in building a movement around reforming the education system based on standardized tests. While those of us who are proponents of progressive education were busy speaking to ourselves, sending our kids to alternative schools, and basking in our anonymity, the "testers" (let's not call them "reformers") built ties to business and the political class, catapulting their movement into the mainstream and now into the dominant educational paradigm. If proponents of progressive education want to become a credible alternative to the education-testing movement, we need to do the hard work of building a robust movement and persuading mainstream America that there is another path forward.
Here are some possible guiding principles for building a politically viable progressive education movement:
Much of the criticism aimed at the current standardized-testing regime focuses on the evils of testing but fails to articulate an alternative vision for education, leaving the impression that proponents of progressive education favor a return to the status quo ante. A recent Washington Post editorial unfairly accused Superintendent Joshua P. Starr of Maryland's Montgomery County schools of "waging war on state tests, a stance that aligns him with the county's powerful teachers' unions." The Post editorial board is clueless about Starr's underlying educational philosophy, which, judging by his book-club series ( How Children Succeed by Paul Tough; Drive by Daniel Pink; and Mindset by Carol Dweck), is very much in line with Tony Wagner's more progressive approach to imparting 21st-century skills. In other words, opposition to testing eclipsed Starr's views on what...
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